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Effects returned to another 14 Families

Yesterday the International Tracing Service (ITS) of Bad Arolsen was able to return personal belongings to another 14 Dutch families at the Amersfoort Memorial Site. Most of the effects were wallets which had been taken away from their owners by the Nazis after the deportation to the Neuengamme concentration camp. “This restitution is quite a moving moment for all of us,” said Nicole Dominicus, head of archives administration at ITS. “The wallets often contain last keepsakes and photographs, which mean a lot to the families. We therefore feel they are best off with them.”

As with the previous restitution of personal belongings in February 2010, contact was established with the families through the initiative of Stichting October ’44, particularly Gert van Dompseler and Pieter Dekker. The two Dutchmen have been voluntarily researching family members for months now. “The restitution of personal belongings often leads to an intensive period of evaluation,” explained Dekker. “Family members want to know exactly what happened back then and actually travel to the original scenes of events.” Together with the belongings, ITS also handed over copies of existing documents from its archives on the fate of the persecutees.

There are still around 3,400 envelopes with personal belongings stored in the ITS archive. The wallets contain photos, papers, letters and food stamps. All valuable items had been confiscated by the Nazis back then. “The personal belongings have no material value, but they are of a highly emotional value,” said Dominicus. Most of the original owners of the belongings were Dutch resistance fighters who had fought against German occupying forces. “They were abducted to the Neuengamme concentration camp via the Amersfoort transit camp,” added Dominicus.

This latest restitution of effects at the Amersfoort Memorial Site is part of an initiative ITS started last year. ITS has photographed all of the remaining items and sent these images of the inventory as a CD-Rom along with an index of names to the Dachau and Neuengamme memorial sites, the international camp committees and other partner organizations such as Yad Vashem and the US Holocaust Museum. “We hope to receive further information on family members from the memorial sites and other partner organisations,” said Dominicus. “We probably won’t be able to find very many more family members, but we still aim at returning as many personal belongings as possible.” Of the 5,200 envelopes originally received in 1963, ITS has been able to return around 1,800 to former prisoners and their family members.